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Two New Missions to Explore the Early Solar System

NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun.

The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids. Scheduled to launch in October 2021, the spacecraft is slated to arrive at its first destination, a main asteroid belt, in 2025.
Then, from 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids.

The Psyche mission will explore one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt – a giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. The asteroid measures about 130 miles in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, it is thought to be comprised of mostly metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core.
The Psyche robotic mission is targeted to launch in October of 2023, arriving at the asteroid in 2030, following an Earth gravity assist spacecraft maneuver in 2024 and a Mars flyby in 2025.

Learn more>>

► Gif source>>

#Planets, #SolarSystem, #SpaceExploration, #NASA
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John Glenn: the First American to Orbit the Earth

John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) was an American aviator, engineer, astronaut, and United States Senator from Ohio.

In 1962 he became a symbol of the space age as the first American to orbit the Earth, aboard Friendship 7, on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, circling the globe three times during a flight lasting nearly five hours.
This made Glenn the third American in space and the fifth human being in space. For Glenn the day became the "best day of his life", while it also renewed America's confidence.

Before joining NASA, he was a distinguished fighter pilot in both World War II and Korea, with five Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen clusters.

Glenn resigned from NASA on January 16, 1964, and the next day announced his candidacy as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio.

Glenn returned to space on the Space Shuttle on October 29, 1998, as a Payload Specialist on Discovery's STS-95 mission, becoming, at age 77, the oldest person to go into space.

Glenn died December 8, 2016, at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. No cause of death has yet been disclosed. He was 95.

► Image: Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 capsule for his historic flight on Feb. 20, 1962.
Credits: NASA

Further reading and references

► Former Senator and Astronaut John Glenn Dies at 95>>

► John Glenn, First American To Orbit The Earth, Dies At 95>>

► Profile of John Glenn>>

► John Glenn>>

#SpaceExploration, #JohnGlenn , #HistoryofScience , #NASA , #Astronauts

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What's Up in the Solar System

A wonderful map by Olaf Frohn (updated for December 2016).

The Planetary Society recently published this interesting map: a diagram, updated once a month, of active space missions traveling beyond Earth orbit.
The web page contains links to past diagrams, all created by Olaf Frohn.

Go to "The Planetary Society" web page>>

Go to Olaf Frohn's web page, where you can find the map of all active and future Solar System Missions as of December 1st 2016 >>

► This map is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)>>

#SpaceExploration, #SolarSystemMissions, #Maps, #Diagrams, #Space, #Astronomy

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ESA's Active Debris Removal Mission: e.Deorbit

e.Deorbit is a planned European Space Agency active space debris removal mission developed as a part of their Clean Space initiative. The launch is planned for 2021 on board a Vega launch vehicle.

A 1,600 kilograms (3,500 lb) spacecraft will be launched on board a Vega rocket into a polar orbit at an altitude of 800–1,000 kilometres (500–620 mi). Once on orbit, the spacecraft will rendezvous with a derelict satellite in an unknown condition, inoperative, and probably tumbling.

Capture will be conducted in one of two ways: either by using mechanical tentacles or nets. The tentacles option includes equipping the spacecraft with robotic arms, one of which will first capture a holding point, before the remaining arms embrace the derelict and secure it with a clamping mechanism. The net option includes equipping the spacecraft with a deployable net on a tether, that will envelope the target derelict before the spacecraft will begin changing orbit. The net option has the advantage of being able to capture objects with a wide range of sizes and spins.

After successfully capturing the targeted derelict, the spacecraft will deorbit itself by performing a controlled atmospheric reentry.

Further reading and references

► e.Deorbit project>>

► e.Deorbit >>

► ESA's active debris removal mission: e.Deorbit>>

► Clean Space website>>

► Watch the ESA video>>

► Right GIF showing a net capture mechanism for use in the e.Deorbit mission (via ESA)

#eDeorbit, #spacedebrisremoval, #ESA, #CleanSpaceinitiative, #space, #eDeorbitProject
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55 Years Ago: Yuri's Planet 

On April 12th, 1961, (I know I'm a bit late...) Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin became the first human in space.

His remotely controlled Vostok 1 spacecraft lofted him to an altitude of 200 miles and carried him once around planet Earth.

Commenting on the first view from space he reported: "The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly".
His view could have resembled this image taken in 2003 from the International Space Station (

Alan Shepard, the first US astronaut, would not be launched until almost a month later and then on a comparatively short suborbital flight.
Born on March 9, 1934, Gagarin was a military pilot before being chosen for the first group of cosmonauts in 1960.
As a result of his historic flight he became an international hero and legend.
Killed when his MIG jet crashed during a training flight in 1968, Gagarin was given a hero's funeral, his ashes interred in the Kremlin Wall.

Twenty years later, on yet another April 12th, in 1981, NASA launched the first space shuttle.

► Source>>

Image Credit: ISS Expedition 7 Crew, EOL, NASA

Further reading

► Yuri Gagarin>>

► An analysis of the flight of Vostok>>

► Yuri Gagarin: First Man in Space>>

► Watch the video "Yuri Gagarin: 108 minutes that changed the world">>

#space_exploration, #history_of_science, #YuriGagarin, #space, #first_human_in_space, #Vostok1

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Follow The ExoMars Launch

ExoMars 2016 is scheduled for launch on Monday 14 March, at 09:31 UTC (10:31 CET), with first acquisition of signal expected at around 21:29 UTC (22:29 CET). Follow the launch live through any of the following channels.
Livestream video>>
The livestream will begin on 14 March at 08:30 UTC (09:30 CET).
Regular text updates will be provided here>>

Updates on Twitter:


The ExoMars 2016 mission consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter plus an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, known as Schiaparelli. The spacecraft will be launched on a Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


Image: Artist's impression visualising the separation of the payload fairing during the ExoMars 2016 launch sequence. The Trace Gas Orbiter with the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, can be seen as the fairing falls away.
Credit: ESA

Further reading

► The ExoMars Programme 2016-2018>>

#ExoMars, #ESA , #ASI , #Marsexploration , #spaceexploration , #robotic_exploration

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The James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror assembly was officially completed on February 3, 2016

Here are a few more photos from the assembly process, as well as cool time-lapse video.>>

JWST has eighteen mirrors. This is an animated gif of the JWST mirror scoreboard, which shows the order of assembly and the dates each mirror was completed.

What’s next for JWST? The secondary mirror is being installed – it’s the round mirror that goes at the end of that long boom. Then the Aft Optics Subsystem, the piece that goes at the center of the primary mirror, which holds the tertiary and fine steering mirrors, will be attached.
Then there are a few more years of testing and assembly of the spacecraft to do, before launch in October of 2018.

Credit: graphics by NASA, animation by Alberto Conti

►The full overview is on the JWST site>>

#JamesWebbSpaceTelescope, #space_exploration, #NASA, #primarymirrorassembly
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WFIRST: A Wider Set of Eyes on the Universe

After years of preparatory studies, it's formally starting an astrophysics mission designed to help unlock the secrets of the universe. 

The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a NASA observatory designed to perform wide-field imaging and surveys of the near infrared (NIR) sky. The current design of the mission makes use of an existing 2.4m telescope, which is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope. WFIRST is the top-ranked large space mission in the New Worlds, New Horizon Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

With the 2.4 meter telescope, single WFIRST-AFTA images will uncover millions of galaxies. Included in this trove of new data will be hundreds of the analogs of what are today's most precious and rare Hubble discoveries. For example, where Hubble has found only a few galaxies within 500 million years of the Big Bang, we now know (from Hubble) that WFIRST will find hundreds of these rare objects. 
So the Wide Field Instrument will provide a field of view of the sky that is 100 times larger than images provided by Hubble Space Telescope (HST). In addition, the WFIRST coronagraph instrument will directly image ice and gas giant exoplanets. Actually, it will enable astronomers to detect and measure properties of planets in other solar systems.

WFIRST is designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics.

► Here is a my previous post about WFIRST, dating back to September 2015>>

Read the last Press Release, dating back to Feb. 18, 2016>>

► Watch the video "WFIRST: The Best of Both Worlds">>

► WFIRST homepage>>

► Animation via

#WFIRST, #space_exploration , #NASA ,
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Liftoff For ASTRO-H, Now In Orbit As HITOMI

JAXA's ASTRO-H satellite was launched on an H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center, situated on a small island in the south of Japan. This space-borne observatory, developed in collaboration with institutions in Japan, the US, Canada and Europe, will probe the sky in the X-ray and soft gamma ray portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The rocket lifted off at 08:45 GMT (09:45 CET) on 17 February and, approximately 14 minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff, separation of the satellite was confirmed. JAXA confirmed that the satellite has deployed its solar array paddles normally through data transmitted from the satellite and received at the Uchinoura Ground Station.

Traditionally, Japan's astronomy satellites receive a provisional name during the implementation phase, and are then renamed after launch.
The now in-orbit ASTRO-H satellite received its new designation: Hitomi, a Japanese word used to describe the 'eye', and more specifically the pupil, or entrance window of the eye. The name Hitomi, which is also linked to an ancient legend about a painter drawing dragons, is a fitting description for this satellite that will be a new eye to study the hot and energetic Universe.

► Read more>>

► The ASTRO-H Mission website>>

► Image source>>

#space_exploration, #ASTROH_Mission, #HITOMI, #JAXA, #NASA, #ESA, #hot_energetic-Universe, #space

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Astronaut Scott Kelly Celebrated 300 Straight Days in Space with Some Water Ping Pong

Scott Kelly has been on the International Space Station for 300 days now, and is nearing the end of an almost year-long mission. To pass the time, he's haunted the station's hallways in a spooky mask, eaten space lettuce, and even grown flowers...furthermore he played a solo round of ping pong with a tiny glob of water.

Read the full story at The Verge>>

Gif source>>

#space_exploration, #ScottKellyastronaut, #space, #ISS
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